COUNTING DELAYS OF UP TO A WEEK EXPECTED IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA ELECTIONS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 30, 2002 – Radio Australia)---The two-week-long PNG national election, which was to have ended Saturday, is proceeding slowly, with voting and ballot counting delays of up to a week expected in parts of the country.

Meantime, Radio Australia correspondent Dulciana Somare reports that government officials in the Highlands have declared Chimbu province a "fighting zone" allowing police to use their own discretion to curb election-related lawlessness.

"Declared winners, intending candidates, electoral officials and voters are disputing many aspects of these elections.

"While seven candidates have been declared winners in three provinces in PNG -- including Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta and former Prime Minister Bill Skate -- the rest of the country awaits a much-needed injection of funds to carry out and finalize the electoral processes.

"In Chimbu province, where a fighting zone has been declared, police have the authority to raid and search homes without a search warrant.

"Provincial authorities are hopeful that the declaration will curb the harassment and intimidation of polling officials, whose already precarious roles are threatened by angry voters upset over funding related delays in this year’s elections.

"Despite the massive nationwide delays, Electoral Commissioner Ruben Kaiulo is still confident that election writs will be returned by July 15.

"Dulciana Somare, Radio Australia, Port Moresby."

 

PNG PM SIR MEKERE CLAIMS IGNORANCE ON JOURNALIST BAN

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 1, 2002 - Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta says he can't understand why his Foreign Affairs Department has prevented foreign journalists from entering PNG to cover the country's elections.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that Sir Mekere claims he and Papua New Guinea have nothing to hide

"On my arrival yesterday I was allowed into Papua New Guinea only after the migration official stamping my visa sought advice from a senior colleague, who checked my name off against a PNG Foreign affairs list of a select group of five foreign journalists who've been given visas to cover the 2002 elections.

"At a news conference an hour later Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta denied his government had a conscious policy of refusing entry to journalists.

"He said, 'My own style, I like being critical of government myself, whatever we do, so I have nothing to hide.'

"Sir Mekere claimed it was PNG's Foreign Affairs Department, not his government, that was keeping journalists out.

"In the latest election results one of the prime agitators for PNG's independence from Australia, Sir John Kaputin, lost his seat for Rabaul after holding it for 30 years. He was first elected in 1972 as one of the leaders of the Matungan Association, which gave Australia considerable headaches on the Gazelle peninsula in the late 1960's.

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia, Port Moresby."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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